The gentle art of correction

30th May 1997 at 01:00
CO-OPERATIVE KIDS Resource pack Pounds 140, or Pounds 120 if purchased with training

SCHOOL MATTERS Resource pack Pounds 120, or Pounds 100 if purchased with training Both packs purchased together Pounds 220, or Pounds 180 if purchased with training from Elizabeth Hartley-Brewer, Hartley Brewer Parenting Projects

These two packs and accom-panying video advise parents on ways of managing their children's behaviour. Each contains notes on running courses for parents on the many aspects of family life that may be problematic. Topics include: "What is naughty?", "Lying and Stealing", "Starting School", "Talking to the Teacher" and "Thinking about Punishment".

The organiser is given background notes, an outline of the session, hand-out material and scenarios for role-plays. The packs are weighty, requiring time and commitment from course organisers. But each session contains helpful and practical guidance, and helps explain some of the reasons behind children's antisocial behaviour.

Teachers would probably like to believe the children in their class had benefited from such positive and consistent behavioural strategies at home. But then most parents would probably adopt an "if it ain't broke, don't fix it" attitude to their children's behaviour. The families who might need such a programme would probably be the least likely to have the time, or the possibility of attending such a course.

I tried the pack out with a friend, whose 10-year-old daughter has started stealing from her mother's purse. First come some useful questions: what is the child taking? Who is she taking it from? What is being done with the stolen object? Advice includes: Don't call her a liar! Protect her self-esteem!

There are reassuring words on the normality of this behaviour as well as on underlying causes. The solutions are less clear, though. I did not feel equipped to offer my friend any useful strategies after reading this section, but the answers to such problems will always be more difficult than the questions.

One of the role-plays ends with a child facing threats of losing her "Barbies" for a month because she locked herself in the toilet to avoid going to school. Was this too harsh? What alternatives would other parents have offered?

Advice and background information about parenting techniques are comprehensive and helpful. The outcomes of the sessions are more likely to be determined by the parents than by the materials, which provide a framework for discussion only.

A slimmer version of this course has apparently been adapted for use in schools. It should be welcomed by those establishments working out policies for managing behaviour using positive reinforcement strategies. The parenting skills course would form a useful adjunct to a policy implemented by a school. As a parenting skills course on its own, it is a little unclear about its potential audience, especially as the cost of the two ring binders would buy a science scheme, or half a reading scheme for an average-sized primary school.

Hartley-Brewer Parenting Projects, 117 Corringham Road, London NW11 7DL. Tel: 0181 458 8404

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